Once again, our yearly or thereabouts sojourn to Florida provided the inspiration for this article. Last year’s message was about First Impressions, and this year’s is a related theme: attitude.
We’ve grown attached over the years to a favorite “Jimmy Buffet”-type bar and marina in Englewood, Florida: Stump Pass Marina. Jimmy Buffet’s tune “Changes in Attitudes, Changes in Latitudes” might have inspired it, but I couldn’t help noticing a large sign that greeted us this year: “New Attitude, Same Latitude!” As it turns out, the marina is under new ownership since our last visit, and it shows.
Had we not enjoyed so many positive experiences at Stump Pass Marina’s adjoining tiki bar (under different management) in prior years, an encounter with the marina manager last year might have dissuaded us from returning as often. To shorten the story, suffice it to say that he had a very bad attitude – a rude, unwelcoming attitude that made me question how he could even be working there let alone manage the marina. This year, I biked to the marina early one morning to poke around and check out the “new attitude.” Wow, what a difference! Despite busyness pulling boats and stocking fishermen for the day, I was greeted by Steven, the new manager, with a warm “Welcome; ‘coffee’s on the house!” I had no intention of buying anything upon my arrival, but purchased a chart of the local waters and a beverage holder printed with “New Attitude, Same Latitude!”
Attitude matters, a great deal. How many times has the attitude of a company’s representative – clerk, server or senior professional – determined whether you chose to do business there, or even reengaged? Rich Daly, owner of Consatech, entrepreneur and member of Minnesota’s Technology Hall of Fame, knows what a difference attitude makes. Leaving a voice-mail for Rich recently, I was greeted by Consatech’s “attitude hot line” message of the week: “Ability determines what we can do, motivation determines what we choose to do, and attitude determines how well we do it.” It also determines how well we are received, the quality of our personal and professional relationships, whether others choose to do business with us and even our health. Research has demonstrated, for example, that a positive or optimistic attitude correlates with resilience and longevity.
Changing attitudes, our own or others’, usually isn’t easy; here are some guidelines:
- Start with our own. Attitudes are contagious, and if our attitude is showing, for better or worse, it is likely to impact others’.
- Psychologists talk about the “ABCs” of attitudes: their Affective, Behavioral and Cognitive components, which influence one another. There are days when I feel (Affective) lousy, and if I don’t manage that will likely display a lousy attitude. I’m not always successful, but if I can manage to act (Behavior) like things aren’t lousy, pretty soon my attitude lightens up. (Some might claim this isn’t “authentic,” but I’ve come to believe that authenticity is being our best selves vs. exactly how we feel at the moment.) Improving the Cognitive component is often about reframing; I try to remember that “an inconvenience can be an adventure wrongly understood, and an adventure is an inconvenience rightly understood.” (G. K. Chesterton) If I think things will go well, there is a higher chance that they actually will than if I think things will go poorly.
- Keep basic “EQ” principles in mind, especially self-awareness, self-regulation and empathy. Awareness that our attitude might be showing is a first step; than we can focus on practices to adjust our attitude or at least our behaviors. Empathy helps; realizing that others might just be having a bad day and cutting them some slack lessens the likelihood of worsening their mood or of getting hooked by it.
- Cultivate an “attitude of gratitude.” No matter how bad off I think I am, simply reflecting on what’s gone right and what I’m grateful for is a game-changer.
- Do attitude checks. On our same Florida excursion this year, we dropped by two neighboring shops to find bedspreads. The first shop didn’t stock what we needed, but the clerk was friendly and helpful, suggesting several neighboring shops to try; just as at Stump Pass Marina we lingered long enough that we made another purchase we hadn’t planned to. Next door, the reception was entirely different; an intimidating looking clerk with a scowl on her face that honestly resembled an over-sized bridge troll bellowed “Yes?” I often wonder when greeted by company clerks, receptionists or personnel if owners ever conduct checks to gauge how attitudes affect business and their brand.
- Keep the end in mind. Taking a few moments to reflect on our purpose or intentions can remedy bad attitudes, or at least their manifestations. “Why am I here?” What are the outcomes I want from this transaction?” “How do I want this to affect our relationship?” are some good questions to ask ourselves.
- Reinforce positivity. In addition to modeling constructive attitudes, recognize and reinforce others who do; while not as tangible as some other contributions, know that they play a significant role shaping winning cultures. Conversely, help those who may be unaware of unconstructive attitudes reshape theirs. Don’t discount the importance of attitude when it comes to selection and promotion decisions. According to research by Mark Murphy of Leadership IQ, some variation of attitude accounts for all but 11% of the 46% of new hires that fail within 18 months.
A good friend’s mother, Betty, passed away not long ago. Greg shared a favorite expression of his mom’s, and her customary conclusion to a phone call or visit: not the usual “Have a great day,” but “Make it a great day!” We have more control than we think over the quality of our and others’ days, and attitude is often the determining factor, so “Make it a great day!”
The last of human freedoms – the ability to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances.
Viktor E. Frankl
There is no menial work, only menial attitudes.
William J. Brennan, Jr.
If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.